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We previously wrote about the need to store water. The recent natural disasters in the south, especially in Texas, have made that abundantly clear. Water purification for safe drinking water is a big concern for those affected. Water from the tap, if available, is not safe. Frozen pipes take time and money to repair. What do you do when the normal water supplies are compromised?

You must prepare and/or purify water for safe consumption. Even water that you have stored may need some treatment before consumption. In the event of a winter storm that leaves lots of snow and ice, but no fresh water, there are several methods to ensure that the Di-Hydrogen Monoxide (H2O) you ingest doesn’t do more harm than good.

Filtering Water

One method of water purification is filtering. Filtering is the process of removing suspended materials in the water.  Dirt, organic material, metals and many different chemical can contaminate your water.

Coffee filters can be used to remove sediment.

The best way to clean dirty water is to put the water through a filter to remove large contaminates first. Do this by pouring it through a coffee filter or several layers of fine cheesecloth.  You can then remove the smaller materials, metals, and chemicals that might have been dissolved in the water. 

Filtering water bottles are good on-the-go.

Salts, metals, chemicals, and other undesirable attributes give the water a funny smell and /or a metallic taste.   Units to filter out these contaminants come in all shapes and sizes. 

Some filters are gravity fed and other styles are dependent upon a difference in water pressure on each side of the filter body.  You create the pressure by applying pressure to the inlet side which pushes water through the filter. This is the way reverse osmosis and filter cartridges work. Sometimes water is moved by creating a suction on the output of the filter. An example would be a Life Straw.

Most filter cartridges use activated charcoal in combination with other substances to remove harmful contaminants. Many of the popular filtering systems use these types of filters. Gravity fed units like a ZERO water pitcher, Alexapure or Berkey water can are just a few of the examples. We compare them in the chart below. When you compare the price of bottled water over time to filtered water, you will find that filtered water is a much better value.

Whole house filters are good but require household water pressure to function and may or may not remove as many contaminants.

Gravity Fed Water Filter Comparison Chart

Big Berkey Water Filter SystemAlexapureZero Water Pitcher, ZBD-040-1
Capacity (Gallons)2.25 Gallons2.25 Gallons2.5 Gallons
Filter Life (Gallons)6,000 Gallons per filter pair5,000 Gallons20 Gallons
Filtration Rate
(GPH – Gallons per Hour)
3.5 GPH1 GPH2.5 Gallons PER DAY
Filters Included211
Contaminants Removed203 including viruses, E.coli, Nitrates, and Petroleum products206 including viruses23
Unit Cost$278.00 $269.95$59.99
Filter Cost$120 (set of 2)$119.95$84.99 for 8
WarrantyLifetime30-days, then on a
case-by-case basis
Cost to filter 6,000 Gallons$278.00$389.90$3,247.00
Cost per gallon (6,000 gallons)4.6¢6.5¢54.1¢
Prices and specifications are accurate as of the day of publication.

We personally own a Berkey and recommend their product as the most economical choice. Our links take you to the authorized Berkey dealer where we bought our unit. We know they honor the Berkey lifetime warranty. Some sellers, like those on Amazon, may not honor the warranty.

Chemically Treating Water

Another way to water purification method is to chemically treat it. This clarifies the water, but leaves some chemicals behind. These chemicals may change the way the water tastes and come with their own issues.

Storing Tap Water

If your tap water comes from a municipal source, it has been filtered and chemically treated.  As part of that purification process, Chlorine is added to the water to kill the organisms that make people sick.  Well water or stream water will not have that treatment applied to it and may need to be purified in another manner.

Chlorine has a limited-time for effectiveness against contaminants.  Municipal water can be stored for up to 2 years before needing to be treated. Stored water also needs to be kept out of direct sunlight to prevent algae from growing.   One option for treating water for long term storage is H20 ResQ by Water Pure Technologies.

Purifying Contaminated Water


There are several products on the market that you can use to safely purify your drinking water. Follow the package instructions for best results. Since they are primarily marketed for the camping and backpacking market, they only work for a limited amount of water and should not be depended upon for long term use.

Ensure any containers are clean before adding the water and that the method of filling the container is made for drinking water.  Do not use a garden hose to fill drinking water jugs.  Use a White RV hose instead. They are made for transferring drinking water. Chemicals and other materials will leech into the water from the hose and end fittings if you use a garden hose.

Purifying your water with bleach is the most accessible means to treat large quantities of water. Just remember that bleach loses its effectiveness over time. Bleach used to purify water should NOT have any fragrances or additives. Color-safe bleach is NOT the same chemical, and should NOT be used to purify water.

Traditional bleach has 6% Sodium Hypochlorite. The new concentrated bleach products have 8.25% Sodium Hypochlorite. Both strengths fall into the same dosing category for purifying water according to the Centers for Disease Control. If the water is cloudy, murky, colored, or very cold, you need to double the amount of bleach used.

Purifying Water with Bleach

The table below shows the amount of bleach with a 5-9% concentration of Sodium Hypochlorite to use to purify water.

Measuring Device1 Quart/Liter of Water1 Gallon of Water5 Gallons of Water
Dropper10 drops40 drops200 drops
ml.5 ml2.5 ml12.5 ml
Standard measuring spoon⅛ teaspoon½ teaspoon2½ teaspoons
If the water is cloudy, murky, colored, or very cold – double the amount of bleach used
Source: CDC.gov

Heat Treating Water

A WAPI is used to ensure water has boiled long enough.

Boiling water is a water purification method used kill the germs and microbes that may infect the water. You will hear about an area being under a “boil advisory” during and after disasters. This is because the water has been potentially contaminated. This method will kill the germs, but it does not remove chemical contaminants or suspended particles. To effectively purify water by boiling, the water needs to reach 185°F for at least 5 minutes.  Because water boils at different temperatures depending upon the altitude, it is important to bring the water to a rolling boil for the full 5 minutes. Then allow it to cool. Boiling removes the air and makes the water taste “flat.” You can correct this by shaking it up briefly to aerate it

An easy way to ensure that your water has reached the appropriate temperature for long enough for purification is to use a Water Pasteurization Indicators (WAPI). These are small vials of wax that float on the top of the water.  When the wax melts and falls to the bottom, the water has been purified.  The microbes and bacteria that may have been in the water are dead and will not create an issue for you.

You can use a WAPI over and over again. Once the wax cools, just flip the vial over so that the wax is again at the top and use again. The wax vial stores in the container when not in use.

Distilling Water

The collection of water vapors is called distillation. Water turns to steam when boiled. That steam is captured and condensed back to water and collected.  Water purified this way is labelled as “Distilled Water”. This is fine to consume, but may taste funny. That is because the minerals that give water taste are missing. Distilled water is pure water. Distilling leaves all minerals, bugs and organic material behind.

You can also collect water from the earth. As long as they are not coated in chemicals, the dew that forms on grass or trees is safe to drink. You can also use the sun to heat water to a vapor for collection. 

What Will You Do?

How will you prepare so that you don’t find yourself in the same situation as many in Texas? Knowing how to purify your water is a good first step. Make sure you have the means to actually do it. Look for our coming article on water storage containers.

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